Threads of Life is one of the, if not the sole reason many tribal Indonesian textiles are still in existence today. Walking into their main gallery located at the heart of Ubud you’re met with intriguing educational displays of several textile processes. Natural dyeing, batik and ikat processes are merchandised beautifully along side an array of yarns, textiles and lifestyle products utilizing a variety of traditional textiles from around Indonesia. Co-founded by Jean Howe, Made Muartra and William Ingram Threads of Life works directly with weavers located across Indonesia and provides them with a market for heirloom quality textiles.
The team at Threads of Life works with the weavers in several capacities. Unlike most textile co-ops they do not push for volume rather they request for highest possible quality textile that the weaver is able to produce and sell them at a premium. This ensures that the textiles are crafted at the highest possible quality in terms of materials used and time spent weaving, attaining heirloom quality is important to keeping integrity in the craft. They also provide a market place for the weavers through their gallery and other channels that are partnered with Threads of Life. This communication between the weavers and TOL is not done through email or phone but in person. This means that the team often travels for days and sometimes weeks to reach weavers that reside in some of the remotest parts of the Indonesian archipelago. During the time spent in the field with weavers and their community TOL discusses quality control issues, buys textiles, places orders, and pays them in advance. TOL also provides support to weavers in rehabilitating lost techniques, field support for developing sustainable harvesting techniques for raw materials, and engages the community in the process. This collaboration between TOL the weavers and their communities across Indonesia ensures that a lot of the different styles within the ikat & batik craft continue onto the next generation. Threads of Life is preserving cultural identity, craft and provides a sustainable means of living through their work.
My next post on Threads of Life covers a discussion with one of the co-founders, William Ingram and the problems that the TOL team faces in sustaining these traditional textile crafts.
Over the last two weeks in Ubud, Bali the notion of ‘slow goods’ has come to the forefront of my mind. If you’re wondering what ‘slow goods’ means exactly, I’ve lifted a concise excerpt from the ‘Slow Movement' wikipedia page.
"Slow Goods takes its core direction from various elements of the overall ‘Slow Movement’ and applying it to the concept, design and manufacturing of physical objects. It focuses on low production runs, the usage of craftspeople within the process and on-shore manufacturing." - Wikipedia
It’s a concept that I had mulled over between participating in my own clothing label’s production process and whilst I was lucky enough to come across and inspect a ‘slow good’ in a store. I would wonder about the plausibility of more people choosing quality over quantity instead of buying new and cheap. If people made buying decisions based on the feasibility of that item being passed down to another generation because the product is well made.
Higher quality products especially when it comes to garments usually take a lot more time to produce from the materials to the construction. In an ideal situation if we all started to buy quality over quantity, if we started to buy goods that were locally produced, goods that were more in touch with their own consumption we might see a shift in our world. A shift away from hyper consumerism and fast and cheap, and maybe our society might soon find an equilibrium with our environment.
The craft and dedication involved with some of the processes I’ve been examining and working with here has given me a clearer understanding of the importance of the ‘slow movement’. Besides the preservation of technique, tradition and integrity of product the ‘slow movement’ questions the norm, questions why we have to consumer more, produce faster, sell cheaper.
Welcome to Processing Ubud! I will be documenting and downloading all knowledge, observations and experiences related to design & craft I encounter over the next several weeks in and around Ubud.
It’s been over a year since I was here last for a brief holiday with friends. During my last visit I had a tour of several workshops around Ubud which left me enchanted and curious about the density of craft on the island. Why are there so many different types of craft on one island? Driving around I saw: wood carving, stone carving, batik, silversmithing, and many other sorts of craft just on the streets.
The culture of the craft in Bali can be traced primarily to the Majapahit empire which use to span the breadth of Southeast Asia prior to the 14th century. The aesthetics and culture from the Majapahit empire comprises primarily of Javanese and Hindu references. When the Majapahit empire conquered Bali this cross cultural immersion started to take place and once the empire fell and Islam started to take a foothold a stronger influx of Hindu & Javanese aesthetics started to appear in Bali as court exiles sought refuge on this Island. Ubud is known as the heart of Bali, it is in and around Ubud in the neighboring villages I will be exploring the different types of craft and artistry.
In documenting these processes I hope to bring more awareness to the importance of “slow goods” in a hyper consumer society.